What a Difference Titles Make
Yeah, yeah, I hear you. I talk about titles a lot.
It’s true. I posted about titles here, and here, and even another one here. That last link goes to a blog entitled Can You Abide Another Post About Titles? Well, can you? Because that’s what the last two weeks have been all about for me, and as we’re always told, write what you know.
If you read along here you know I’m working on a book titled The Perfect Daughter.
Or, at least, I was. Yes, my publisher loved the title. Yes, it was absolutely “perfect” for my book. Yes, it was catchy enough to pique curiosity about the story inside. We were all set.
“This” if you didn’t click on the above link, was a sudden wealth of titles on the market with the word “perfect” in them. The Perfect Mother. The Perfect Couple. The Perfect Nanny. The Perfect Friend. On and on and on.
You can see where I’m going with this, right?
I noticed this myself. I tried NOT to notice, but there they were. Of course, I wasn’t going to be the one to point this out to my editors. Maybe I hoped perfect titles would all go away before my book comes out next summer. But not to be. Marketing said, “You know what?” And, sadly, I knew they were right.
So the search for a new title that would be just as, well, perfect began.
The book is about family, particularly the relationship between two sisters. So while “Sister” is often used in titles–I’ve used it myself in Sister’s Choice–it was a place to start. Since the book’s about a disappearance, I also worked with words like “Gone” and “Vanished” and “Family” and “Goodbye.”
I have a newish editor. We worked together on The Swallow’s Nest, and I like her very much. She’s tactful and thoughtful, and she backs away to let me do my own thing whenever she can. But we couldn’t agree on a title we both liked. Emails flew back and forth. Just as I was about to throw up my hands, Sisters and Strangers popped into my head. And yesterday I learned that it’s passed the first hurdle. We’ll wait until the sales team weighs in before we decide for sure.
I like Sisters and Strangers? Do you? I came up with it, after all. Do I like it as well as The Perfect Daughter? I’m still mourning that one a bit, but I like the idea there’s less chance that readers will confuse my book with a zillion others.
But wait, I’m not finished. There’s the matter of one more title, one more book.
Years ago I wrote Dragonslayer, about a minister in the inner city trying to put his life back together and help his new community at the same time. Why did I call it Dragonslayer? At the time my publisher was doing a series called Men At Work. (Don’t ask me why, but they were.) My revered editor called, asked me to write one, and began the old rhyme: “Rich man, poor man, begger man, thief, doctor, laywer…” You know that one, right? I listened to her examples and asked if I could do a minister. She was agreeable.
Dragonslayer won awards. It won the RITA from Romance Writers of America, and it got one of a handful of 5 star reviews from Romantic Times Magazine. But did it sell well?
At first I blamed that on the cover, with maybe a little blame on what some readers might consider a difficult theme. And a tad on the fact the hero was a minister. It wasn’t Christian fiction, or even the broader category “inspirational” fiction, but in addition to a strong romance, it did talk about issues of faith.
In truth though, while all those things might be true, the title was also a problem.
I’d wanted to call the book Where Dragons Lay–based on a verse in Isaiah–but my editor suggested Dragonslayer, and I agreed. What none of us understood was that readers would assume that Dragonslayer was a fantasy novel. Today there are many fantasy novels and series with that title.
So, once the book came back to me to put online, I hoped to counter everything with a new cover. Sadly that cover, with the word Dragonslayer in graffiti on a brick wall, was confusing, too. What kind of book was it? Nobody was quite sure.
In the end I realized that while I hate to change titles midstream, Dragonslayer had to be rechristened. I’m finalizing a brand new cover, too, since the title is different. I’ll tell you more about both once the cover’s done. But I think at last, the cover and the title say everything about what’s in the book. I hope you’ll agree. It really is still one of my favorite of my own novels.
Titles. Do they affect whether you pick up a book or not? Have you ever bought a book because of the title? Do you have favorite words that will make you reach for one or click on it online? I’d love to know.
And in late breaking news, someone at my publisher has just rejected Sisters and Strangers. Anybody got a hole I can crawl in to hide?
I LOVE the new title “Sisters and Strangers?” ….it’s much more alluring than “The Perfect Daughter”.
Every time I read one of your posts about writing, I realize what a hard job it can be. I appreciate all you have to do to get a book published!
Right before I read this, I was deleting emails of a blog with book titles. I’m not as aware of words that make me gravitate towards a book as much as I am ones that make me avoid them. Those that send me running are: sheik, prince, pregnant, boss and billionaire. There are probably more. I gravitate towards books a lot by cover and author.
I agree. When I see a title “the Millionoaire or billionaire’s (fill in the blank) I immediately turn away. I look at the cover, title and author, and then read the synopsis of the book to decide if I’ll read it. I have about a doze or so authors I read.
I, too, avoid certain titles. I do love my favorite authors and gravitate toward them first. Then, while waiting for a new book by one of them, I look for literary fiction about families, historical or time travel.
1) The Thing About Sisters
2) Perfectly Imperfect
I have to admit, it’s the book covers that capture me, not really the title, which is probably wrong. But if it’s with an well-known author such as yourself, I’m more apt to not just go with the cover, but the blurb on the back of the book. Guess this doesn’t help much, but…! Just keep writing your awesome stories, which I love.
I worked in a bookstore for a long time. The people who bought the series romances, mostly bought all of the ones available each month. Many of the ones like Men at Work, would have a hunk with no shirt on the cover. Most stores (chains) bought them as to a formula, you got 2 of each title, couldn’t order more, etc. Bad sales were often the result of publisher under-publish. One of our regulars had one out and we couldn’t get anymore even though we ordered before they came out. I wouldn’t take it personally that the sales were not good. And when it gets republished, alot of times there was not a disclaimer saying that. That really upset people also.